London-based IP-Holdings has trademarked the Bitcoin name with the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office as of 22 December 2017. The company will have rights over the Bitcoin name for an entire decade, until they have to renew in 2027.
This appears to be the most successful attempt at trademarking Bitcoin’s name in history. There have been attempts in the United States and Russia, but these have been denied.
The announcement which trademarks Bitcoin list hundreds of different products for which IP-Holdings has sole rights over the Bitcoin name. For example, a merchant selling Bitcoin t-shirts on the popular e-commerce website Etsy was sent a cease and desist letter because IP-Holding claims that anyone selling Bitcoin t-shirts must get permission first from them.
IP-Holdings was aggressive towards the Etsy merchant, saying that his t-shirts amounted to an infringement of the UK Trade Marks Act and must be stopped immediately or there would be a lawsuit.
Of course, permission from IP-Holdings to use the Bitcoin name comes at a price, which is the entire reason it trademarked Bitcoin in the first place. IP-Holdings does not produce any of the Bitcoin-branded products protected by its trademark, instead specializing in selling intellectual property rights.
The trademark has caused an uproar among netizens, particularly because many – including the Bitcoin Foundation – believe that Bitcoin should never be trademarked, a commercial pursuit at odds with the libertarian and open source ideals of the cryptocurrency.
Observers also note that the company predates merchants who create Bitcoin themed products, yet threatens them with legal action if they don’t pay for the rights to use the Bitcoin name IP-Holdings money.
Bitcoin was created by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, last heard from in 2011.
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